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Favorite Summer Destination: Paris, I Love You

30 Aug

How amazing can a summer vacation be? Pretty friggin’ spectacular, especially if the destination is Paris. It’s true what every one says about easy it is to love Paris and after spending some time there, the city can make us feel like it loves us too.

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In Paris, we can spend hours getting lost in the Louvre, one of the largest museums in the world and home to some of the most famous works of art. An experience that will guarantee moments that will take one’s breath away.

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A short walk, or in our case a short pedicab ride, away from the Louvre is the Pont des Arts or Passerelle des Arts bridge, a pedestrian bridge that crosses the Seine River. Couples come to this “Love Bridge” to memorialize their undying love by writing their names or initials on “love locks” (padlocks, which can be purchased on the bridge), attaching the lock to the railing or grate on the side of the bridge, and throwing the keys into the Seine. This romantic gesture is meant to represent committed love that can only be broken by unlocking the lock; impossible, as the keys are at the bottom of the river. Looks like it’s Sarah & Danny Forever!

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Before the Louvre, many of Paris’ historical paintings, like the Mona Lisa, covered the walls of the Palace of Versaille; however, I should say “unlike the Mona Lisa,” because I learned that this masterpiece was actually on an easel, not on the wall. We’ll notice that most of the paintings at the Louvre have no frames, and we’d have to go to the Palace of Versaille to see the frames that now house replicas of the real things. About a 40 minute drive from Paris, the Palace of Versaille is a must see destination. Renting a golf cart can save a ton of time when touring the gardens and property, especially if you’re like me and want to see it all. During busy seasons with heavy tourist traffic, or not, a private guided tour is also recommended. This guided tour gives tourists access to areas that aren’t permitted with the normal entrance fee, such as the library, music room, theater, etc. Plus, a knowledgable guide accompanies the tour’s guest(s), who can explain the history of the Palace (and it’s former residents) as well as answer any questions we can think of. Once I discovered what it was like in the general areas when walking to the exit to see the Hall of Mirrors (while still amazing, super crowded and unbearable at times), I realized what a life-savor being on private tour was.

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The Moulin Rouge was always a place I wanted to go, so I bought two tickets to it’s resident cabaret show and revue, Le Féerie. VIP tickets will avoid having to wait in the long entrance line and guarantees great designated seats, champagne, macrons, a program, and souvenirs. While the show is no “Cirque Du Soleil,” walking into Le Bal Du Moulin Rouge, so popular for it’s French can-can, makes it’s guests feel like we’re participating in it’s unique history and tradition.

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There are so many sights and monuments in Paris, like the Arc de Triomphe, which was a short walk from our hotel on the always lively Champs-Élysées. The history of the city is so rich and the architecture and design of it’s buildings and monuments are so beautiful and impressive.

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One of the sights that I got to see was the Notre Dame Cathedral. As I kid, this was a place I thought I could only dream about visiting. It was a humbling experience to finally see and realize that dreams are not too far from reality.

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During my vacation, where I indulged in some of the most incredible meals I’ve ever had, I realized that I absolutely loved Paris. Paris told me that it loved me too when I had the best crepe ever at Les Ecuries.

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The eiffel tower has got to be the most prominent symbol and icon of Paris and France. I was able to savor every sight and moment after ascending to the second level by walking the stairs. It was unreal!

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Going to the eiffel tower once in a lifetime is magical in and of itself, but going twice in one day is more than a girl who craves nearly everything could even ask for (the second time around, we took the elevator). We started the last day of our trip in Paris visiting the eiffel tower and ended the day there. Seeing the tower illuminated at night is stunning, but seeing the light show (where the tower twinkles) was amazing and incredibly romantic. In between these two visits (specifically at dinner), there was an engagement! In Paris, I savored some of the best times of my life, and came home with a fiancé (which may have contributed to this being my favorite Summer destination). Je t’aime Paris!

Craving Arpege

25 Jul

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Where can we find a culinary artist that creates beautiful and insanely delicious masterpieces? In Paris, on Rue de Bourgogne, there is a chef by the name of Alain Passard, who designs picturesque dishes looks as good as they tastes. When my bf and I dined in his restaurant, Arpege (which is not the easiest to make reservations to BTW), Alain Passard came out of the kitchen and said hello, asked where we were from, and asked if we liked vegetables. Of course we liked vegetables, but after having the dinner that was served at Arpege, I am now in love with vegetables. I’ve always heard that Paris is the city of love, and now I’m an official believer because I fell head over heals in love with the incredible and unique recipes at this Parisian restaurant and Arriere-Cuisine that satisfy cravings as well as the visual appetite. AP’s designs and technique have given life to probably the most gorgeous food I’ve ever laid my eyes on and if we think something can’t taste beautiful, well we’re wrong. Either the way AP’s food tasted made the food look better, or the way AP’s food looked made the food taste better, or both, or neither. All I know is that I felt like I was looking at a super model physicist, confused because it never happens… food should never look and taste that good. I wasn’t the only one who felt that way. My bf said that it was the best meal he’s ever had in his life (and this was only 5 dishes in to an over 15 dish meal, not counting the dessert).

Just to make our lives easier, we both had the tasting menu of AP’s specialty and signature cuisines, and I had a glass of their recommended Riesling. The menu included Coquelier, Collection de tomates, Aiguillette de homard bleu nuit acidule au miel nouveau, Fines ravioles potageres multicolores, Turbot de la pointe de Bretegne grille entire au, Robe des champs, Rostisserie, Fomages Bernard Antony, Mille, Sucrereis, and several surprises that I can’t pronounce or repeat even if I wanted to. The only reason I can even list the items on the menu was because the staff gave me one to take home. I tried keeping track of the courses, but after the 10th item, I was already I delirious (with joy and satisfaction); however, even when I thought I could eat no more, I found that I kept clearing my plates. During my meal, I told my bf that Arpege is the true “Happy Meal,” because it can really make a person happy. The funny thing was we actually left with a “gift.” Arpege gifted a souvenir, which was the dinner knife we used during dinner. The staff cleaned it and folded the blade into the handle like a pocket knife. Engraved in the wooden handle is “Arpege 2013.” Although already an unforgettable experience, I now have a remembrance of my Arpege love affair of pure indulgence and bliss.

Craving Passadis Del Pep

23 Jul

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What kind of restaurant doesn’t have a menu? The kind of restaurant that doesn’t need one, which is exactly what Passadis del Pep is. Once we found this hidden gem down an alley and through a little passageway (a passadis in Catalan) in Barcelona, which can be a little hard to find, we were so happy that when we got seated, we didn’t have to order our dinner. Everyday, Passadis Del Pep prepares a new selection of beautifully presented, fresh mariscos (seafood) and whatever is brought to the table is what we get. After receiving a half bottle of cava (local champagne), dishes come straight from the kitchen to the table, as if we were guests in some one’s home. The courses; however, don’t ever seem to end. First, came the clams and sea snails, then the gambas (shrimp) and calamari, and after that a plate of salted shishito peppers. Two different kinds of prawns came next, and then we were warned that after already devouring seven amazing dishes, there was one more course before the main dish. Most people stop there, but we didn’t. We got the rice with squid and then we were asked to choose a main course, “pescado or carne?” I had the fish and my bf had the meat, which came out with a side of potatoes. For dessert, we shared the crème Catalan and chocolate profiteroles. We each had a cup of Café Americano, they brought out a few bottles of chilled dessert wine, which we could pour for ourselves and we were also offered any other alcoholic drink of choice. I could only handle a few sips. Passadis Del Pep was an unforgettable, almost 3 hour, dinner experience. Barcelona saved the best dinner for last, when I thought it couldn’t get any better.

Craving Los Caracoles

22 Jul

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Where do we go when dinner plans don’t go as planned? We try plan B, which turned out to be more than fine by us… In Barcelona, many restaurants are closed on Sundays and Mondays, so a few of the places on top of my food list got crossed off. My bf got a suggestion from a friend back home and we headed about a mile from our hotel to Los Caracoles, which is located in an alley off La Rambla. Outside of the restaurant is a huge wood-fired oven, blazing and sending scents of food through the street, enticing passerby’s to have what their kitchen’s cooking . Right when we walked in, it looked like a tiny bar and restaurant, but after walking past the ovens and chefs, up the stairs, and into the dining area, we were surprised to find that the establishment could seat well over 200 people. We got some great suggestions from the server, who started us off with bread in the shape of a snail with olive oil and vinegar. We ordered most of his suggestions: the verduras salteadas (sauteed vegetables), gambas al ajillo (shrimp fried in garlic), paella de mariscos (seafood “paella”), navajas a la plancha (grilled razor clams, and of course los caracoles especiales (special snails), which we had to try since the name of the restaurant is Los Caracoles (although I could only handle eating 2). For dessert we had pastel de fresas con maracuya (strawberry cake) and crema catalana (“Catalan” cream caramel, which is very similar to creme brulee). The ambiance and decor of the restaurant is as lively and flavorful as the food. Before we finished dinner, we got a nice surprise and got serenaded at our table by a Spanish band. The dinner experience was awesome, and I especially could not get over how tasty the vegetables were; Delicioso! They were the first thing I tried and even if I just had the vegetables, I would have still made up my mind that Los Caracoles beat anything and everything I could have possibly had at any “Plan A” restaurant on my list.

Arola Craves

21 Jul

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What’s a great way to kick off a stay in Barcelona, Spain? Eating great food is always a great start in my opinion, which is exactly my bf and I did on our first night together. Located on the 2nd floor of the Hotel Arts, our home for the next few days, we dined at Catalan chef Segi Arola’s restaurant, which overlooks the ocean, located in front of Frank Gehry’s giant wale. We were given a few complimentary starters and a bread basket, with garlic, tomato, olive oil, and salt. For the bread, we were instructed to cut the garlic clove and tomato in half, rub the garlic on the bread, then do the same with the tomato, add a little olive oil, and a dash of salt, and eat. The bread was delicious, a perfect teaser for the tapas we about going to enjoy. We ordered White Asparagas with mayonnaise, olives from Aragon and sprout, Eggplant flame roasted, with arbeguina olives and pine nuts, Arola’s Patatas Bravas (mmmm, yum), and White Shrimp prepared with garlic. Our server advised of of ordering 4, maybe 5 items to share, but we didn’t stop at 4, we continued to order the Langoustines grilled with truffle vinaigrette, Mussels in brine with vitelotte potato chips, Crab prepared in Wontong pasta ravioli and dashi, and my bf had the Nebraska Beef loin, marinated with Xerez, vinegar and citrics with vegetables and sprouts. All of the tapas were amazing. Our great dinner, which started off our trip, also ended well with dessert or cocina dulce, pumpkin cake, passion fruit, and white chocolate. If this dinner was an indication of what to expect, I can’t wait for more of what else Barcelona has to offer.

Craving Pinkberry

14 Jul

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What’s the best place to get frozen yogurt in town? In my town, it’s Pinkberry, hands down. The first time I had Pinkberry a few years ago, I was hooked. My bf and I were steady regulars and when our local Pinkberry began delivery service, we had the business card posted on our refrigerator (it was the only thing posted on the refrigerator) and in addition to going into Pinkberry locations, the phone number of Pasadena’s Pinkberry was practically on speed dial. Since we were going there so often, we started stocking our freezer with pints of fro-yo from Pinkberry. My fro-yo crave craze died down significantly since first being introduced Pinkberry. Actually, it had been a while since my last Pinkberry craving, but on a hot summer day over the weekend, the craving came back with a vengeance. I made it a point to head to Pinkberry to order my favorite, the original frozen yogurt with mangos, strawberries, and gummi bears. My second choice wasn’t available, which is green tea (seasonal) with granola. If that flavor was in season, I would have ordered both. It was just as yummy as I remembered, and my craving for Pinkberry was definitely satisfied. What satisfies your cravings on a hot summer day?

Craving Nicki C’s

23 Jun

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Ever go to a restaurant two days in a row? My first time was this weekend, when my bf introduced me to Nicki C’s for lunch, and then again the following day for breakfast for the second time. For lunch, we had a complimentary seasoned bread basket, the Brucshetta, a delicious Caprese Salad, and the best fish tacos I have ever had. After chatting with our server, we learned that Nicki C’s was actually known for their breakfast, so we had to try it, and it was goooood! They have fresh squeezed orange juice, which tasted incredible mixed with cranberry juice. My bf had the juevos y chorizo (eggs scrambled with chorizo, onion & cilantro, served with corn tortillas), which he ate in what seemed like a minute. I had the chiliquiles verde (eggs, tortilla strips, avocado, cilantro, cheddar cheese, and verde sauce) with a side of fruit. We shared the banana walnut pancakes with butter and maple syrup, which I had with a nice cup of black tea. Needless to say, we found a new breakfast and lunch spot, and I’m sure we’ll be back to Nicki C’s soon to try their, you guessed it, dinner!

Food Truck Nation

7 Jun

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Since when did food trucks become so cool and popular? The Grilled Cheese Truck, Baby’s Badass Burgers, A Slice of New York, Chow Indiana Jones Truck, The Philly Lean, Cousins Maine Lobster, The Greasy Wiener, Sam Choy’s Pineapple Express, George’s Greek Truck, Kogi, Fishlips Sushi, The White Rabbit, Corn Heaven, The Lobsta Truck, and Cool Haus were all in downtown Los Angeles for lunch at the CAPG conference that I am attending. Besides the crazy lines, having food trucks cater the event was a nice surprise, considering how much I’ve been craving to try more of them and how rare it is that I’m actually able to catch and get something to eat from one of the “good ones.” Today I tried a few new food truck faves, the Lobsta Truck, Corn Heaven, White Rabbit, and Coolhaus (which I tried once before at Coachella). From the Lobsta truck, which was highly (and rightfully) recommended, I tried their delicious Lobsta Roll with Butter. I also had the “Oh Thank Heaven,” corn on the cob with butter and salt, from Corn Heaven and the Vegetarian Burrito (a flour tortilla, garlic rice, egg, cheese, and soy based “veggie meat” in a sweet, but spicy sauce) and slaw from the Filipino fusion truck, White Rabbit. For dessert, I couldn’t resist a Coolhaus cookie sand which with vanilla bean ice cream in between chocolate chip cookies. I wish I could have tried more trucks, but I was beyond stuffed. I was amazed at the amount of food coming out of these trucks and the amount of people inside of them. I realized during my meal and after all of the food I enjoyed, that I found the answer to my own question. Food trucks must have became cool and popular once the news spread that the food that comes (rather efficiently) out of these small restaurants on wheels is actually really good and crave-worthy. Whats your favorite food truck?

Festival Craves & Savors

4 Jun

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Doesn’t every one love festival season? It sure looked like it based on the number of happy festival goers who went to the San Manuel Amphitheater in San Bernardino this past weekend, where Mumford and Sons headlined. While I like the band, what really had my bf and I sold on the concert were the food trucks and the fact that we wanted to spend time with Jax and her husband Ste, our music festival partners. There were so many food trucks in this large outdoor amphitheater, and the first thing we did was eat at the Wicked Kitchen, which I had been craving since trying it for the first time at Coachella. I had the same thing I had before, “I Pity The Tofu’l.” Not long after, my bf and I shared some nachos at one of the taco stands. We also tried the Chunk-n-Chip Cookies Truck, which was my favorite. I had the pistachio ice cream in between two chocolate chip cookies. The ice cream was delicious, there were little chinks of pistachio mashed in the ice cream, and it was so good, I forgot about the cookies, and neglected them almost altogether. I always enjoy being able to try a variety of food cravings at the trucks and vendors that have become almost as popular at music festivals as the bands themselves. I enjoy savoring time with friends, the great music, and the great vibes from the people there having a good time. It’s also nice to be inspired by festival fashion, and there isn’t any one more fashionable that I know than my friend and festival partner, who can be followed on Instagram @Luna_spoon (named after her beloved Boston Terrier).

So, what festival or concert is next on the list? Which band or musician is a must-see this season and where?

Craving Sprinkles

3 Jun

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Who doesn’t love a good cupcake every once in a while? Whenever I crave cupcakes, I go to Sprinkles in Beverly Hills, which has the best cupcakes I’ve ever had. They are moist, flavorful, and bring such happiness like no other cupcake bakery in the entire world. I’ve heard about this place from my good friend Jax, the biggest cupcake fan known to man, so I knew Sprinkles had to be good. Since my first bite, I was hooked and ever since then, Sprinkles has become my absolute favorite cupcakery (cupcake bakery). My bf and I ordered two dozen cupcakes (to share with friends, and Jax of course), including Red Velvet, Black and White, Strawberry Shortcake, Vanilla, Milk Chocolate, Banana Chocolate, and my new favorite flavor, Banana. Sprinkles is to die for!

We got a rather pleasant surprise when we went to Sprinkles and saw that they have a new ice cream parlor right next door. Sprinkles ice cream is handcrafted using organic California dairy and carefully selected ingredients that are slow churned to incorporate less air resulting in a densely creamy and intensely flavorful ice cream experience. I had the 2 scoops of the vanilla and salted caramel in a red velvet sugar cone, and my bf had the cookie ice cream sundae with a chocolate chip cookie, Captain Crunch ice cream, with hot fudge and whip cream. On the driving home from our little Sprinkles dessert haul, while eating my ice cream cone, I felt like a sweets bandit in the night. I thought desserts should never taste this darn good. Well, every one should have a guilty pleasure. At least every once in a while.